Press release 2021 awards

2021 Ranald MacDonald Awards all about fire

This is an original news item by 

Friends of MacDonald • The Dutch Connection (FOM NL)

The 2021 Ranald MacDonald Award goes to the Lytton Chinese History Museum, Canada; American fire historian Stephen J. Pyne wins oeuvre award

The 2021 Ranald MacDonald Award has been granted to the reconstruction of the Chinese History Museum in Lytton, B.C., Canada, which was destroyed by wildfire. Exceptionally, American fire historian Stephen J. Pyne will receive an oeuvre award for his unabating, groundbreaking and fine work on mankind and fire. Earlier postponed due to the pandemic, the award ceremony will now take place on the worldwide web at 17 hrs (CET) on Thursday, 3 February, 2022. 

Late June 2021 the national temperature record dating from 1937 was broken in Lytton for three consecutive days. It reached almost 50 °C, which had never occurred in the world so far north. On the fourth day the village burned down and thus became world news for a short while. Lytton, however, deserves lasting attention. The region has known the longest human habitation in North America. For some 10,000 years the Nlaka’pamux have lived near the confluence of two great rivers. Two hundred years ago Scottish colonists came there for fur, about 160 years ago Americans for gold, and some 20 years later Chinese arrived for gold and construction work on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today there are still some 2,500 Nlaka’pamux inhabitants and roughly 250 people of European descent. The Chinese community has disappeared. The memory of their presence, however, was kept alive in Lorna Fandrich’s Chinese History Museum, ‘one of the world’s finest small museums’ and acknowledged as a cultural heritage site. After the fire only the database of 1600 objects was left.

Lorna Fandrich decided to rebuild the museum, an enterprise which is true, good and beautiful, and sheds new light on the relations between Asia, Europe en North America, well deserving of the 2021 Ranald MacDonald Award.

In his youth Stephen J. Pyne (1949), known as the ‘foremost American fire historian’, was a firefighter on the northern flank of the Grand Canyon in order to pay for his English studies. He got acquainted with fire not in classrooms but by experience, a fact determining his entire work. His first book, from 1982, about fire in America, stood out because of its unusual form, style and content, and has to this day remained a standard work. Since then he has written dozens of books dealing with fire in every era and continent, including an essay about the wildfire on the Strabrecht Moor in the Dutch province of Brabant in July 2010. 

In his view, fire on earth is closely linked to human migration across the globe. Thus he describes fire in America as an encounter of three types: the natural fire shaping the continent before the arrival of man; the fire that came along with the original inhabitants from Asia and drastically changed the landscape, the prairies being a telling example; and the fire that was taken along from Europe by colonists and later made its way to the west, packed in machines. Wildfires were fought, and the native inhabitants’ fire was dismissed as harmful, with all its consequences. ‘The tragedy about fire is not that wildfires were combated, but that controlled fires were no longer lit’. By analogy with the term ice-age, the earth’s present history should be described as a fire-age, a pyrocene. Pyne’s work is so true, good and beautiful, that it deserves a Ranald MacDonald oeuvre award. 

In one of his books Pyne recounts the history of fire in Canada, with a separate focus on the mountain forests of British Columbia, which thus neatly ties together the 2021 Ranald MacDonald awards.

Website Lytton Chinese History Museum:

Website Stehen j. Pyne:

The Ranald MacDonald Award

This international prize is annually awarded by the board of Friends of MacDonald • The Dutch Connection (FOM NL), a Dutch non-profit foundation. FOM NL is a sister organisation to the Friends of MacDonald (FOM USA) and West of the Sun (FOM Japan). The foundation’s aim is to promote further insight into the relations between Asia, Europe and North America in a wider sense, and more specifically by rewarding and stimulating young people’s work. Its main activity is granting the Ranald MacDonald Award to a first work which is true, good and beautiful and opens a new window on the world, particularly on the relations between Asia, Europe and North America.  The award winner receives an amount of 5,000 euros and a specially dedicated work of art, a small boxed globe, cut from hardwood from Asia, Europe and North America. By exception, the foundation may grant an oeuvre award, amounting to 2,500 euros and a similar trophy.

The award ceremony traditionally takes place on October 11, on board of a three-master in Amsterdam, but in 2021 prizes were sent to the winners instead. On February 3, 2022, Ranald MacDonald’s birthday, a Zoom meeting will be held, free for everyone to attend online. Foundation secretary Fred Dijs will deliver a laudatory address for Lorna Fandrich, while Guido van der Werf, Professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, specialised in the connection between the carbon chain and climate, will do the same for Steven J. Pyne. Fandrich en Pyne will then give their speech of thanks. Next there will be an opportunity for questions to the award winners.

Former award winners

2016 – In the Light of What We Know (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014), debut novel by writer Zia Haider Rahman, additional oeuvre award for Frederik L. Schodt, writer and translator in San Francisco, biographer of Ranald MacDonald

2017 – With Our Own Hands (LM Publishers, 2015), non-fiction debut by biologist Frederik van Oudenhoven and ethnographer Jamila Haider, additional oeuvre award for Hajime Narukawa, architect and designer of the revolutionary world map AuthaGraph

2018 – The Dawn of Eurasia (Penguin, 2018), non-fiction debut by political scientist Bruno Maçães 

2019 – De Fenix (Stichting Droom en Daad, Rotterdam & MAD Architects, Beijing, Los Angeles, Rome en Jiaxing, under construction), first emigrant museum in the Netherlands

2020 – The Journey of Belonging, A Herstory Between Time & Space (Twentyfive Media, 2020), non-fiction debut by Indonesian Lala Bohang (1985) and Dutch Lara Nuberg (1990), additional oeuvre award for photographer Stacii Samidin (1987), in particular for his life work Societies

Note to the editors: 

For more information you may contact the foundation’s secretary (see below). Press photos are downloadable through this link:


Stichting Friends of MacDonald • The Dutch Connection (FOM NL)


Contact person: Fred Dijs, secretary

Telephone: ++31(0)6 288 03 999